Joe Doe

(Btwn 1st & 2nd Aves), East Village / LES
Beer-Barley Mussels

Beer-Barley Mussels

This unassuming LES newcomer is a true diamond in
a vast field of coal among eateries springing up in this
ultra-trendy downtown district.

For starters it features a menu that is thoroughly original
and innovative and the effects are pleasantly surprising.
While Joe Doe brands itself “seasonal American,” it’d be more aptly called
“seasonal cosmopolitan,” since the chef expertly combines flavors and ingredients from a variety
of culinary cultures. The result is that he adds vibrancy and pizazz
dishes as commonplace as cauliflower. More on this and the food
in a second.
What also adds to Joe Doe’s appeal is its all-around
uniqueness without the identity and branding obsessions typical of
ambitious up-and-coming chefs that take themselves too damningly
serious. Joe Doe’s chef, Joe Dobias, has the stuff of a rising star without the pretense or blatant zeal.
The decor is a cross between a zen sushi bar
and an Anglophonic gastro pub. It seats 25-30 people at most and the
vibe is low-key and friendly. It has lots of bohemian appeal, but once you
get to know it, you realize that it speaks to all with gastronomic
sensibilities and an appreciation for inventive delectable eats.
I liked Joe Doe’s so much that I visited it two nights in a row to
experience a broader swath of its menu.
On my first visit, I ordered
appetizers and wine. I ordered the caramelized cauliflower, the duck empanadas
and a glass of Gruner Veltliner. The cauliflower was a true delight.
It was nutty, subtle but flavorful. Atop a bed of pristine Greek yogurt and accented with vibrant fresh mint,
the dish was a successful medley of a typical Eastern European ingredient made
with Middle Eastern flair.
The empanadas were less exciting, but certainly very good. The empanada
crusts seemed baked and the duck filling
was moist, tender and not the least bit fatty or greasy.
The Gruner Veltliner was served at an appropriate cold temperature, but was a hint to grapy for my liking.
On the second night, my dining companion and I enjoyed a full blown three course meal.
For appetizer, we shared the beer-barley mussels. This dish was an highly inspired all-around hit.
The mussels were indisputably fresh and had a heavenly perfume of sea water.
The beer broth was supple and complex, and a judicious use of fresh mint leaves
cut the warm flavors of the beer broth and coconut milk and punctuated the freshness of the mussels.  The barley was toothsome and added a pleasing texture. A streak of chili was elegantly rubbed on the rim of the plate for heat and garnish.
For my main course, I ordered the shrimp and grits. Here too, cultures happily
intermingled. The andouille was lean and smoky and bestowed a nice counterpoint
to the deliciously mild queso blanco flavored grits. The grits were creamy and blanketed the fresh and plump jumbo shrimp like a sumptuous velvet. This was a wonderful winter dish that was hearty without being heavy. The portion was tastefully abundant.
Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

The Kiev skate that my dining companion ordered was also fresh and very much to his liking. He noted the creativity of the dish, the boldness of flavors and the high quality of the ingredients.
The dessert selections are all very rich. After a wonderfully satisfying meal, I was
quite tempted to forgo the sweet course, but the the twenty-something diners at
our neighboring table gave us vigorous encouragement to order one, as their party had sampled all of them and insisted they were worth the calories.
Needless to say, we succumbed.
We ordered the Black and White cookie because it seemed the lightest option
on the menu. It came with a bowl of cocoa tapioca. The cocoa was high grade
and mildly bitter. The cookie was crispy and light and iced with a soft layer of molten vanilla and chocolate flavored sugar.
Jill's Black and White Cookie


Both visits here were overwhelmingly enjoyable and have given me ample inspiration
to return and recommend Joe Doe to others. Admittedly, the prices are not a bargain,
but the tabs are well worth the cost.
Entrees range between $20 and $30. Wine is by the bottle and glass.
Service is appropriately casual, but knowledgeable and alert.
Some may comment on the small menu, each category has between 5-7 items.
However, the diversity of the selections, freshness of the ingredients and  competence of the chef will cause most to agree that the limited variety is not
a liability but works as an attribute to restaurant’s ability to be successfully satisfy
while avoiding the pitfall of overreaching.

See for yourself!


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